By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
If Mayor Murray expects that cutting city support – $500/year and some staff time – to Neighborhood District Councils will cause them to fold, West Seattle’s district councils will be proving him wrong.
The Delridge Neighborhoods District Council has already displayed defiance by hosting the first citywide gathering of DC reps to follow the mayor’s announcement that he wanted to cut off the councils and find different means of “engaging” citizens. And last night, the Southwest District Council formalized its intention to continue on, with or without city support. Here’s how things unfolded at the SWDC’s September meeting at the Sisson Building/Senior Center:
DISTRICT COUNCILS’ FUTURE: SWDC co-chair David Whiting from the Admiral Neighborhood Association led this discussion, on behalf of the SWDC executive committee (in which he is joined by co-chair Eric Iwamoto from the Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council and Vicki Schmitz-Block from the Fauntleroy Community Association). He says the SW District Council executive committee wants to continue on, regardless of whether the mayor’s plan to cut off official city support goes forward. A vote was subsequently taken – and everyone present agreed with that plan. (Besides the aforementioned executive-committee members, other reps at the SWDC meeting were from Alki, Genesee-Schmitz, Morgan, and the West Seattle Emergency Communication Hubs.)
First point of discussion, how to make up the $500/year that the city has provided as financial support, all of which had been covering the cost of renting a room at the Senior Center for 11 meetings a year. Participating groups will be asked to chip in. Deb Barker from Morgan Community Association suggested lower-cost meeting space could be found, too. Whiting also had attended a recent City Neighborhood Council meeting and said other groups’ reps were in varying degrees of frustration and anger, but also most of them “want … to continue forward in some capacity.”
As for the city’s efforts to figure out where to go with future community engagement, the ongoing city survey was mentioned too – if you haven’t taken it yet, go here.
Also at last night’s meeting:
PARKS SUPERINTENDENT: At first there was concern that Jesús Aguirre would be a no-show, but he arrived – a bit late after “an hour stuck on I-5 – still learning the Seattle traffic patterns.” His main topic: The Seattle Park District, “fundamentally just a funding stream” (from a voter-approved levy), managed by Parks and Recreation. It was approved a little too late for taxes to be collected in 2015, so this is the first year that money is coming in: $48 million/year. “At least for this first six-year cycle, the expenditures” were laid out by the plan that went to voters, so the money “is very much spoken for … in a long, long list of projects.” In other words, it’s not just a pot of money to be thrown at whatever comes up. And a priority, he reiterated, was to help catch up with the maintenance backlog. That’s included seemingly simple things such as outdoor-restroom cleaning in summer, community-center maintenance, and adding a Parks worker and Seattle Animal Shelter to patrol parks for leash/scoop/etc. violations. (He also pointed out that the public hearing on the off-leash-dog plan – first reported here in June – is coming up September 22nd; hearing details are here.)
The Park District has an citizens’ oversight committee (meeting monthly), but ultimate budget approval comes from the City Council meeting as the Park District Board (meeting quarterly).
This levy has a “major projects challenge fund”; the first round of funding had 19 applications, though it was far less publicized, in our observation, than similar community-funding opportunities in connection with other levies. When hearing of a recent public hearing (not in West Seattle), we asked where we could find the applications – which were much-publicized in parallel process from Parks/Green Spaces Levy – and were told they weren’t going to be available online. (Paper copies were postal-mailed to us as a media courtesy.)
Aguirre also talked about the Parks Department’s operating budget, $153 million-plus for this year, with $13 million of that coming from the Park District.
“Given the growth Seattle is going through, I don’t think we’re ever going to have enough funding for all the services that people want,” he lamented.
And he mentioned programs that are aimed at reaching out to “communities we haven’t connected with” in the Parks realm, including Art in the Parks (which among other things brought the music/dance/drama performance “Blood Wedding” to Roxhill Park). The program also includes the “White Out” art installation that Ryan Feddersen is working on for Delridge Playfield.
In Q/A, Mary Fleck, who represents Genesee-Schmitz Neighborhood Council on SWDC but also is a member of Seattle Green Spaces Coalition, mentioned the mayor’s July decision to keep the Myers Way Parcels and wondered if there is a Parks Department point person yet. A “team” will be discussing that “in the next few weeks,” internally, Aguirre said. He added that he’s “excited” any time there’s an opportunity to add land to Parks and Rec but also “nervous” because there is no money for it. “It’s a significant investment – and we’ve got to figure that out.” Fleck mentioned that there are grants for wetland restoration and other watershed issues that would seem to apply to the Myers Parcels.
Deb Barker from Morgan asked about the Morgan Junction Park expansion site where old commercial buildings have just been demolished, with potential interim uses including parking and/or food trucks. She wanted to know if any money potentially raised by parking would be able to stay in the community. Aguirre said he wasn’t familiar with details of the site, but “whenever there is a facility that generates revenue …” what Barker said would seem to make sense, but they have an entire system to worry about, and he has to look at the big picture of “the overall system.”
Aguirre was thanked for improved bicycle parking that has finally been installed at Alki Community Center.
He was asked if a new “gap analysis” is in the works. That would be part of a new plan set to be complete a year from now, he said.
Aguirre was also asked about increasingly higher rates for spaces at Parks facilities. “We’ve gotten increasingly good at meeting our revenue targets,” he noted, while acknowledging that the ability to pay varies. He mentioned the Community Centers plan unveiled in South Park last week (WSB coverage here) and how that will address some of these concerns, and he clarified that one major factor of it was proposing to redirect some of the Park District money that was supposed to go toward “restoring operations” that had been cut years ago (a question we asked at last week’s briefing). “I want us to rethink the way that we operate these community centers,” Aguirre said.
NEIGHBORHOOD STREET FUND PROJECTS: The meeting also brought the next step in the process of determining which of the community-proposed Neighborhood Street Fund projects will get funded. Each district council ranked proposals and forwarded their top five; SDOT then reviewed the proposals and came up with documents for each one, sent back to the DCs. SWDC members are now re-reviewing their top five.
39TH/OREGON: See the SDOT document here. The problem is how difficult it is for pedestrians to cross here; proposed solution, crosswalk with flashing beacons. The SDOT cost analysis of the project – $700,000 – seemed too high, some observed.
ARBOR HEIGHTS TRAFFIC CIRCLES: See the SDOT document here. The original proposer had asked for traffic circles for traffic calming, and SDOT instead proposed road-narrowing, $858,000 worth. Neighborhood District Coordinator Kerry Wade explained that without a record of at least two collisions at an intersection, a traffic circle can’t be pursued, and the intersections mentioned here don’t have records of crashes.
HARBOR AT SPOKANE: See the SDOT document here. West Seattle Bike Connections members proposed it and a rep was present to reiterate the need. Proponents worked with area businesses, from Nucor to Luna Park. It’s already been identified as a priority in city master plans. The cost is estimated at $352,000 “and we get a lot for our money in this one.” One question involved how it would affect parking in the area, given how contentious that issue had been back during creation of the northbound part-time bus lane a few years ago, and supporters were told to be sure to speak with Luna Park-area business owners.
FAUNTLEROY BETWEEN RAYMOND AND 42nd: See the SDOT document here. The price tag on this one surprised some because it’s relatively low – $156,000.
RAPIDRIDE BUS STOP RELOCATION: See the SDOT document here. There may not be a solution, proposer Deb Barker said, after talking with SDOT, so they are going to suggest ranking this low. The proposal was to move both the northbound stop that bottlenecks traffic on northbound California north of Fauntleroy and the southbound stop on Fauntleroy west of California; SDOT’s suggested fix, Barker said, would only move the southbound stop, and would move it to someplace that could make things worse – in front of Zeeks Pizza (WSB sponsor) on southbound California north of Fauntleroy.
SWDC members’ re-ranking will be done by e-mail.
Also noted at the SWDC meeting:
PREPAREDNESS: Cindi Barker from the West Seattle Emergency Communication Hubs said the newest hub, at Hope Lutheran (42nd/Oregon), is planning a grand opening celebration next month – details to come. She also mentioned the September 25th Disaster Relief Cargo Bike Trials, which will stop at four local hubs along the way, including Ercolini Park, where, Barker said, a solar-powered TV will be showing the Seahawks game. (Here’s our story from last weekend – registration is still open.)
ALSO ON SEPTEMBER 25th: Neighborhood District Coordinator Wade reminded everyone of the day’s biggest event, Seattle Summer Parkways at Alki. Here’s the latest list of who’s involved. An attendee announced that West Seattle Bike Connections will have a bike rodeo as part of Summer Parkways and is looking for more volunteer help.
The Southwest District Council meets first Wednesdays, 6:30 pm, at the Senior Center.